In my first column on Holocaust restitution, I looked at the struggle for Jewish reparations over the years. Although the deadline for most programs has passed, there are a surprising number for which it’s not too late to apply.
The best website to focus on is run by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany. The Claims Conference is the central body which negotiates on behalf of world Jewry for compensation and restitution for victims of Nazi persecution and their heirs. And as it puts it, “to provide a measure of justice for Jewish Holocaust victims, and to provide them with the best possible care.”
As the site points out, “there is no fee to apply for compensation from the Claims Conference. You do not need to pay anyone for application forms and you are not required to obtain assistance in completing and/or submitting application forms. If you need assistance to apply, you may contact the Claims Conference – without any fee.” (Please do contact them if you have questions. I have no further information beyond what is included in this column.) The Claims Conference uses a single application form – available in English, German, Hebrew, Russian and French – for all programs.
These programs are still in effect. (The following are summaries. See the website for full details.)
• The Article 2 Fund – Lifetime monthly compensation for a range of survivors including survivors who were citizens of Western European countries at the time of their persecution and were in concentration camps or ghettos or who lost a family member; those incarcerated in a ghetto or lived in hiding or under false identify; Jews incarcerated in special camps in Austria, the copper mines in Bor, Yugoslavia, and in labor battalions for Hungarians on the Ukrainian front.
• The Central and Eastern European Fund – similar to the Article 2 Fund allows some of the most persecuted Nazi victims in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union to receive compensation for the first time.
• The Hardship Fund – A one-time payment for Holocaust survivors from the former Soviet bloc countries who emigrated to the West.
• The Child Survivor Fund – A one-time payment of €2,500 to Jewish Nazi victims who were in a concentration camp, a ghetto, or in hiding for at least 6 months in Nazi-occupied or Axis countries.
• The Orphan Fund – A one-time payment of €2,556 to those living in former Soviet bloc countries who were born in 1928 or later and were orphaned due to Nazi persecution (both parents were killed due to persecution.)
The Claims Conference is also involved in these active restitution agreements:
• Payments to Aid Austrian Survivors – Provides financial assistance to Austrian Holocaust victims living in need worldwide.
• Romanian Survivor Relief Program – A one-time payment (expected to be a few hundred U.S. dollars) toward the restitution of communal properties wrongfully taken from Jewish communities of Romania during and after the Second World War. Please note that you must have an annual individual income below CAD $33,000 to qualify. Completed applications for this program must be received by the Claims Conference in New York by November 30, 2018.
• Czech Benefits for Survivors – Holocaust survivors who were Czech Republic citizens and were persecuted on a racial and religious basis during the Second World War, including victims of Nazi persecution, may be eligible to receive either an additional allowance to an existing pension and for those not receiving a pension, a lump sum payment from the Czech government. Payment ranges from U.S. $6,000 to nearly $40,000.
I was surprised to see that agreements are still being negotiated. Only this year, the German government recognized approximately 25,000 Algerian Jews who may be entitled to compensation as victims of Nazi persecution. Jews who resided in Algeria between July 1940 and November 1942 may be eligible for a one-time payment of €2,556.
“This is a long overdue recognition for a large group of Jews in Algeria who suffered anti-Jewish measures by Nazi allies like the Vichy Regime,” said Greg Schneider of the Claims Conference. “The Vichy government subjected these people to restrictions on education, political life, participation in civil society and employment, abolishing French citizenship and singling them out only because they were Jews.”
Unfortunately, it must be noted that over the years the Claims Conference has itself been criticized for high operating costs. As well, in 2013, a Claims funds director was sentenced to eight years in prison for $57 Million in fraud against the organization. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara called Semen Domnitser and two accomplices guilty of “unthinkable crimes.”
In addition to negotiating the above agreement, the Claims Conference also provides assistance to grassroots Holocaust organizations around the world. Their Canada page lists initiatives in Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver and Winnipeg.
It also profiles Edmonton’s Elza Gorbanov. As a child in Donetsk, Ukraine, Elza and her family fled the Nazis to Kazakhstan. When Donetsk was liberated in 1943, the family returned to find that their home had been ransacked and nothing was left. They struggled for years and in 1998, Elza and her husband started to receive food packages funded by the Claims Conference. Due to nearby fighting between the Ukrainian government and the pro-Russian forces, she immigrated to Canada in 2015. Here, she continues to receive assistance from the Claims Conference and from Jewish Family Service of Edmonton.
Next time, why new restitution laws are still making headlines and generating controversy over six decades after the Holocaust.